After months of research, parts finding and rebuilding, our 322 V-8 was sitting on our engine table, ready to go back into the engine compartment of our '53 Roadmaster 2 door Riviera hardtop. We had cleaned and painted the underside of the car and the lower part of the firewall and engine compartment. We left the top part in primer until we put the engine in. The hood was already off and mover's blankets were placed on the fenders and across the cowl to cover and protect the windshield. All that was left to do was to connect the transmission to the engine and put them in. The transmission is a Dynaflow, Buick's smooth automatic that was introduced in 1948. By 1953, the unit had been improved and was now called the "twin turbine" Dynaflow. It had a new 4-element torque converter that featured two turbines, interconnected through a planetary gear set, resulting in less slippage and a smoothness unmatched in the industry.
When we pulled the engine, we marked the flywheel, converter pump and cover so that the pump could be reinstalled in the same position on the flywheel. Matching up our marks, we bolted the transmission to the engine using the correct torque sequence specified in the motor's manual, and with anticipation, hooked up our chain hoist and prepared to lower the engine into its compartment. These Buicks have 4 wheel coil springs and use torque tubes, so care must be used to not move the cam around with the transmission out, because the rear end will shift and can move forward, resulting in having to realign the rear end. We had pulled our rear end back with ratchet straps, leaving just enough room to put the engine and transmission in and to position and connect the torque tube. All mounts were new and on the engine. As we carefully lowered the 322 into place, it fit in nicely, and we felt relief as the engine mounting studs fell into their holes. We bolted down the engine mounts and then replaced the two transmission mounts. The one at the rear is to support the weight of the engine and transmission, and the thrust pad is to take the thrust from the rear wheels. We replaced all of our radiator, heater and transmission hoses, using the correct GM "tower clamps" to tighten them down.
After hooking up all linkages, radiator hoses, wiring, etc., we were ready to go to the details of our engine installation. In '53, a new ballast resistor was used to limit to a safe maximum the primary current flow through the coil and the distributor contact points. The original is a small round unit that mounted on a bracket next to the coil. It is connected in series between the ignition switch and the positive terminal of the coil. We decided to use a newer porcelain resistor, neatly hiding it under a bracket at the coil and we installed our original resistor in its original place next to the coil. We felt that this would be a safer alternative, and still have an original appearance. This engine has left and right brackets that the ignition wires loom through before ending up hidden under metal spark plug covers, giving a neat, orderly look. We used 7mm solid copper core wires to give us a true 20,000+ volts at the plugs. For our fluids, we used straight 30-weight detergent oil and Dexron III transmission fluid.
Buick used both Carter and Strombert carburetors on their Roadmasters in '53. Ours is a 4bbl Stromberg with hot air choke and an electric switch to start the car by pressing down the accelerator pedal. Our buddies at Daytona Parts rebuilt this and it looked great sitting on top of our newly-rebuilt engine. We had already removed, cleaned and sealed our gas tank and put in a new float unit. We always run a ground wire from one of the studs on the float unit to the car's frame. We have found this eliminates needle bounce and fluctuation at the gauge. A lesson we recently learned is not to use brake line for fuel line! The inside diameter of brake line is smaller and the tubing itself is thicker and causes the fuel to compress. This can cause "heat soak": a condition where pressurized gas continues to flow into the carburetor after the engine is shut off, resulting in flooding. This condition is more likely with brake line because the thicker brake line holds in more heat when the engine is shut off and the built-up fuel pressure can push raw fuel into the carburetor. We ran new fuel lines, putting an inline filter at the tank and a GM glass bowl filter at the carburetor. The original was metal, but we like to use the glass filters so we can monitor the fuel.
The distributor had been cleaned, tested and painted, and all wires replaced. New Delco-Remy points and condensor were installed, along with a new vacuum advance. We always test the vacuum advance with a vacuum tester before installation. To set the distributor, we placed the engine timing mark on 5 degrees before UDC by rotating the engine backwards past the mark, then forward (removing any play in the timing chain) to the timing mark. Then we installed the distributor with rotor button in the proper position, pointing toward #1 plug on the cap, then retarded the distributor until the points closed, turned on the ignition and slowly advanced the distributor until the points opened (they will spark) then locked down the distributor and wire, ready to start our engine. Joe and I used our checklist to make sure we had all of our fluids in, lines hooked up, etc. After making sure everything was okay, we hooked up our exhaust vent hose to our new exhaust system, sprayed a little gas into the carburetor and hit our remote starter. The engine started quickly. The oil pressure was about 40+ pounds (35 is normal) and we began to break in our cam. This is done to prevent premature cam failure due to excessive loading between the cam lobes and lifters. To do this, we brought the engine to high idle and held it there for about 20 minutes to allow the cam and lifters to wear in to each other. The high idle also provided more oil during critical startup time. During this period, we continuously checked our oil pressure and temperature, and looked for any fluid leaks. Everything check out great! It was now time for a test drive. With hood off and the car in primer, we drove it around a few blocks and it performed so well we hated to bring it back to the shop! All that's left on the engine now is to finish the engine compartment and put on the engine decals. See you next month for a special holiday D.O.C. Keep 'em driving!